Deus Ex is a first person strategy action shooter, falling into what is probably best termed the 'Metal Gear Solid' genre. In this respect, it is in a competitive market, and one that is dominated by the afore-mentioned MGS games, but also contains The Hitman, Project IGI and so on. Games where they want you to think alongside your action.
Yes, there are a few out there now- MGS was so good because it was unprecedented and its entry to the PlayStation platform was immense. In fact, I bought my first PlayStation because of MGS. But I digress, I'm looking at Deus Ex here, but it is hard to keep focused, and you'll see why as this review unfolds.
In Deus Ex you play (wait for it) a special agent for UNATCO, the United Nations Anti-Terrorist Coalition. You are a new breed of Agent a bio-genetically-nanotechnology-extra-augmentated thing.
Basically the idea is that you are a superior UNATCO Agent. At the very fibre of your body you've been augmented (hence the nano part), giving you 'built-in' parts, like communications in your head. This built-in dimension also means you can store information, like pictures, codes, instructions and so on. This as you can imagine makes gathering information easy, such as door codes, because you can just pull it out of the bag when you reach the right door.
Your nano-augs also give you the ability to upgrade yourself and your skills. At the start of a game, you have a basic allowance of units you can allocate to your different skills (skills ranging from computers to swimming to heavy weapons). As you progress through the game you get awarded more points that you can allocate - put them all in Swimming, and you can hold your breath for longer and swim faster. Put them in Computers and you can hack the security system faster and so on. And they really do make a difference to your performance in the game. You can see why you think MGS with their genome project...
The Training section of the game is the run of the mill - do this and that. It is useful up to a point, and helps you experiment with controls, which at first touch, are tricky. Like all games with lots of controls, you get used to them, but I'll have to stick to Deus Ex now I've got the hang of it. The controls do what you'd expect, move, look, duck, jump, reload, change weapons, etc., but you can also select your augmentations so you can easily turn on or off your biofunctions easily. Did I mention that? Oh, yes, you have a range of biofunctions that use bioelectric power, such as extra resistance to injury, or see in the dark eyes. These have to be turned on or off as appropriate, and means that you can select extra abilities as situations arise. Rather than having a torch, your eyeballs can see in the dark, but it requires extra power. So as you work way around the game, you have to watch your bioelectric levels along with everything else.
Gameplay eases you into things, but it is not simple, and it helps to explore, and talk to people. On the whole this is an action game, like MGS, but there is some strategy. There is also the ability to choose a route through the game. Different solutions to situations lead to different outcomes. For example, in one situation you have a train full of hostages. Your aim is to eliminate the terrorists and gain control of the area. The fate of the hostages is in your hands. Moral decision time. Do you carefully resolve the situation to save the hostages, or just indiscriminately frag the lot. I chose the latter, it seemed like a good idea at the time; collateral damage and all. Once I have finished the game I'll play again to see if these decisions make much of a difference. There's a major plot area where you'll have two clear choices and these will provide you with two different outcomes.
The graphics and sound are good. It can be a little dark, so play at night with the lights off, in winter and you should be able to see it all. The cutscenes are also quite good - they do the job. There don't seem to be any glaring errors or problems with the graphics, although I have been able to see through one wall - normal story with '3D' games. The AI is also interesting. You can sprint up to people and pop one in their head quite easily, but at the same time, if you sneak up slowly, they can detect you and let rip. Being shot is interesting - you can take a few bullets, but on the whole there are a range of things that can damage you in the game. I have killed myself by shooting fuel barrels with frustrating frequency. The ability to save as and when you like is refreshing, and can be a useful way of testing different approaches to problems.
Overall, is it a player in the genre? I think so- on the PC it's a six-figure selling classic. It's certainly a captivating game. It is intriguing, even if the storyline is a little unoriginal. But if you are a fan of the action strategy espionage thing, and longed for a 3D follow up to Syndicate which EA will never develop, then Deus Ex delivers. It does have a cult following, and Deus Ex 2 is now out, so that tells you something about the success of the original- which some people regard in high esteem in spite of the better graphics and presentation of the sequel.